A week of preparation, three days of cooking, and 12 turkeys later, Susie Perez opened her heart and place of business to welcome 100 of her closest Open Door friends to share a Thanksgiving feast.
Main Street Pub & Grill in Sandwich was permeated with the sweet, warm smells of butter and sage Nov. 19, setting senses on full alert as guests passed through the front door.
“I wanted it to be like going to my house,” said Perez, owner and manager of Main Street Pub & Grill. “They’ve become my family, my friends, and I love them all!”
And Open Door Rehabilitation Center clients are fortunate that Perez has a “big house,” because they feel the same way about her, calling her “Miss Susie.”
This is the second year in a row that Perez has hosted this celebration, treating her guests to a hearty meal that includes all of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, plus a generous dessert table that is stacked with overlapping plates of pie slices and scrumptious homemade sweets.
“Everyone is so appreciative of what we do. Makes you cry. A lot of them had never had a true Thanksgiving meal,” Perez said.
Perez solicits the help of her good friends, who are also her customers, in order to pull off the event. With many guests using wheelchairs and other mobility supports, volunteers deliver the fare right to the table.
Jenn M., an Open Door client, had been anticipating this event for weeks. “It was delicious! Whipped cream with pie!”
“They do such a great job. Miss Susie is wonderful. I’d like to thank her from the bottom of my heart,” said Debbie B. “I gave her a big hug when I said thank you.”
"All of the Main Street volunteers wear warm smiles and make their guests feel like they are part of a big family that truly cares," said a news release from Open Door. "Everyone at Open Door is overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of Susie Perez and her friends. It is incredible to witness community members so dedicated to improving the quality of life for clients, in such a personal way."
Perez and her helpers even prepared carry-out trays for Open Door clients who were not able to attend the festivities.
When Perez first opened her business, she researched Open Door to learn what they were all about. “That’s when I knew, I wanted to do what I could to support Open Door,” said Perez. She and her friends also host a Christmas meal with gifts, and a Halloween celebration for Open Door clients.
Open Door Rehabilitation Center provides programs and services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Staff focuses on “opening doors and developing opportunities,” like this experience, for the individuals they serve. Learn more at www.odrc.org or call 815-786-8468 to arrange a tour.